Council Grove, Kansas — On the Santa Fe Trail

Hays House Restaurant on the Santa Fe Trail.
Seth M. Hays, a grandson of Daniel Boone, was the first white settler in Council Grove in 1847 in what is now the state of Kansas. In 1857 he opened the Hays House Tavern and Restaurant. Today, Hays House is the oldest continuously operating restaurant west of the Mississippi River. Its customers have included Jesse James and George Armstrong Custer (and me!)

My children’s elementary and middle schools were near the start of the Santa Fe Trail in Kansas City, Missouri, but I didn’t pay that much attention to the trail until much later.  Now I’m slowly visiting towns and cities along the trail — not in any particular order. In fact, it wasn’t until I visited Santa Fe, New Mexico, the end of the trail, that I thought “Hey, this trail starts near my house!”

This post focuses on Council Grove, Kansas, one of the more significant towns on the Santa Fe Trail.  The town was named after an agreement between European Americans and the Osage Nation about allowing settlers’ wagon trains to pass through the area and proceed to the West. Pioneers gathered at a grove of trees so that wagons could band together for their trip west. Council Grove has 15 sites listed on the National Register of Historic Places. One is the Post Office Oak. Travelers left their mail at this tree to be picked up by others going in the right direction.  General George Armstrong Custer slept in the town with his troops during the American Civil War, under a large tree known now as the Custer Elm.

The Santa Fe Trail was a 19th-century transportation route through central North America that connected Franklin, Missouri with Santa FeNew Mexico, according to Wikipedia. Pioneered in 1821 by William Becknell, the trail served as a vital commercial highway until the introduction of the railroad to Santa Fe in 1880. Santa Fe was near the end of the El Camino Real de Tierra Adentro, which carried trade from Mexico City.

Farmers and Drovers Bank, Council Grove, Kansas.

Built in 1882, the Farmers and Drovers Bank, Council Grove, Kansas, is one of the oldest banks in Kansas, and is still in operation today.  The bank is on Main Street, which is the old Santa Fe Trail, and was added to the National Register of Historic Places on June 21, 1971

Council Grove Carnegie Library, Kansas Photo Print

Council Grove Carnegie Library, Kansas

 

The one-story, brick eclectic Neo-Classical Carnegie Library building sits on the south side of Main Street in Council Grove, Kansas. Red rose bushes flank the entrance steps.

Main Street is a section of the old Santa Fe Trail. Council Grove is a Santa Fe Trail National Historic Landmark town.

The library, built in 1916, was listed on the National Register of Historic Places on June 25, 1987. Now the Carnegie library building is the home of the Morris County Historical Society.

Kaw Mission, Council Grove, Kansas Photo Print

Kaw Mission, Council Grove, Kansas

 

A sycamore tree and a white oak shade the historic Kaw Mission in Council Grove, Kansas.

Kaw Mission is a historic church mission at 500 N. Mission Street that was home, school and church to 30 Kaw boys from 1851–1854. It is near the Santa Fe Trail in the Flint Hills.

It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1971.

The site is now administered by the Kansas Historical Society as Kaw Mission State Historic Site. The state of Kansas was named for the Kaw (or Kansa).

Last Chance Store, Council Grove, Kansas Poster

Last Chance Store, Council Grove, Kansas.

 

Built in 1857 by Tom Hill, the Last Chance Store in Council Grove, Kansas, was the last opportunity for freighters bound for Santa Fe, New Mexico, to pick up supplies for their journey. It is also the oldest commercial building in Council Grove. The building has served as post office facilities, government trading house and polling place. The building’s architecture marks a transition from the Frontier style of construction to the Prairie Vernacular style.The store is on Main Street (Highway 40) which is also the Santa Fe Trail. It was placed on the National Register of Historic Places on June 21, 1971, and is part of the National Historic Landmark Council Grove Historic District.

Madonna of the Trail, Council Grove, Kansas Photo Print

Madonna of the Trail, Council Grove, Kansas

 

The “Madonna of the Trail” sculpture in Council Grove, Kansas, is one in a series of 12 monuments dedicated to the spirit of pioneer women in the United States. The monuments were commissioned by the National Society of Daughters of the American Revolution (NSDAR). They were installed in each of the 12 states along the National Old Trails Road, which extended from Cumberland, Maryland, to Upland, California. Much of the National Old Trails Highway later became U.S. Highway 40 and U.S. Highway 66 (Route 66.)

Dedicated in 1928 and 1929, the twelve statues, created by sculptor August Leimbach, have become sources of local pride and all are currently in good condition and on display, thanks to local and national efforts.

Terwilliger House, Council Grove, Kansas Poster

Terwilliger House, Council Grove, Kansas

The Rawlinson-Terwilliger House was built by Abraham and Mary Rawlinson in 1860-61. This stone home was the last house that freighters carrying goods passed going west on the Santa Fe Trail when leaving Council Grove as late as 1863. The Rawlinson-Terwilliger Home is the oldest stone home and the second oldest home remaining alongside the Santa Fe Trail in Kansas.

Cottage House Hotel, Council Grove, Kansas.

According to the Cottage House hotel website, the hotel began as a three-room cottage and blacksmith shop, built in 1867. Today the hotel has 26 rooms in the main building, 10 rooms in adjacent motel unit and a honeymoon cottage. The hotel was added to the National Register of Historic Places on August 4, 1988.

All rooms in the main hotel building are decorated and furnished in keeping with the period in which they were built.

Lace curtains and selected antique furnishings are featured throughout the building, though each room is different.  All rooms have private baths, cable TV, WI-FI and modern heating and air conditioning.

Learn More About Council Grove, Kansas.

Cottage House, Council Grove, Kansas, Website.

National Register of Historic Places Listings in Morris County, Kansas.

 

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4 Comments

Filed under History, Kansas, Photography, Travel

4 responses to “Council Grove, Kansas — On the Santa Fe Trail

  1. History is so interesting and so important but so undervalued!

  2. You had me on a mini research looking into the Santa Fe Trail. What an amazing history. Thank you for the introduction – very much appreciated.

    • Thank you, Clanmother! I keep learning more, too. I just learned about General Custer staying in Council Grove, just today before publishing the blog post. I’ve been reading a book about Custer’s Expedition to the Black Hills of South Dakota in 1874.

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